Appreciating Music

Last night I enjoyed a night in at a friend of friends place. It wasn’t my usual crowd, some people I’d met before, but a lot of new faces. Like most small, in-house gatherings we ordered some take away for dinner and had a few drinks while sitting around chatting. However, unlike most house parties, the main activity of the evening was to listen to the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories.  One guy had brought the CD (yes the actual, hard copy CD) which,  after eating, we sat down to listen to the album. For many of us, this was our first listening, indeed somebody noted that it felt like it could be a momentous occasions we would look back upon fondly in the future.

Usually when I listen to a new album, it’s in the background while I’m  doing something else, which means I’m not fully present to the experience. While I wasn’t fully present to this whole album either, a key difference was the environment in which and the people with whom I shared this experience. Several people present were DJs,  quite tuned into the music scene and listening with both a personal and professional ear. This, along with the notion of listening to the album as the primary form of entertainment,  created an entirely different, and more intriguing, music listening experience.

Around the room, people observed and appreciated completely different aspects of the music, providing perspectives I could never have considered alone. The atmosphere created by people actively enjoying and engaging with music, rather than the sounds filling the background space, was a much calmer vibe, with a greater sense of focus and attention. It created an almost spiritual connection with the songs, as people sought to experience how they were made to feel. Rarely have I taken the time to listen and experience music in such a way. I was instantly drawn to the nostalgic value of listening to a record spin; the feeling of discovering the sounds which would define a moment in time, or possibly a generation.

This experience came at quite an opportune moment. Since I’ realised my understanding of music has stagnated, I’ve decided to dedicate a specific portion of my fortnightly salary to purchasing new music. This, I’ve decided, is an excellent way to keep my self engaged with new sounds and upcoming bands. Purchasing a new album each fortnight will force me to constantly be on the look out for new music to sample.

Spending some time with a group of people who appreciated listening to music, and who dedicated time to actively listening to an album, has highlighted how enjoyable that process can be. It’s a certain kind of meditation to put aside 45 minutes to focus solely on one activity, particularly one which makes use of just one sense. It trains you to focus, but more importantly to appreciate what you are feeling as part of that experience.

I can see myself building a new habit of dedicating time to actively listen to a new album in its entirety and concentrate on the sensations and feelings which emerge from that experience.  I may even capture those feelings here as an emotional review of new music I encounter.

While writing this post I listened to the Melbourne Ska Orchestra’s self-titled album.

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